Obesity and the Feet


Overweight and obese people must be most concerned with the arch of the foot and the additional stress load it applies to the foot. As excessive amounts of weight are forced upon the feet, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that hold up the arch do not become stronger. They actually become stretched and weaker due to the extra weight that is forced upon these structures. In time, if these structures are not protected, they will allow the bones and joints of the feet to shift and collapse, causing the arch to become painful and even flat. This will lead to pain not only in the feet and ankles, but also to pain in the shins, knees, hips, and lower back.

Causes of Foot Pain

Why the arch of the foot is so important:
The normal arch functions as a shock absorber for the entire body. Each time we step down, we place up to 5 times our body weight on the foot, depending on whether we are walking, running, or jumping. If there were no shock absorber in the foot, the force of each step would eventually fracture or dislocate the bones of the foot, leg, and lower back. When the arch is flat, or has collapsed, it cannot function properly. If left untreated, this will lead to a completely collapsed foot that cannot function as a shock absorber at all; and, this in turn will cause constant pain in the foot, and eventually the knee, hip, and lower back.

The normal arch is made up of bones and joints that are held tightly together, in a precise relationship. In order for the arch to flatten out, the ligaments and tendons that hold the bones and joints together must become stretched, leading to a collapse of the longitudinal arch.

If the arches are not protected, or if they are already flat and left untreated, then the severely overweight person can expect to experience one of the following painful and debilitating conditions:

  1. Pronation is the most common and damaging medical problem that may occur as a result of flat arches. Pronation is a turning out of the foot at the ankle, so that one has a tendency to walk on the inner border of the foot. You can test for pronation by looking at the leg and foot from the back. Normally you can see the Achilles Tendon run straight down the leg into the heel. If the foot is pronated, the tendon will run straight down the leg, but when it lies on the heel, it will twist outward. This makes the inner ankle bone much more prominent than the outer ankle bone. Because pronation is a twisting of the foot, all of the muscles and tendons that run from the leg and ankle into the foot will be twisted. If left untreated, pronation maybe the cause severe foot deformities.
  2. Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis (pain in the bottom of the heel that may radiate into the arch). This is the most common problem seen in overweight patients. The undue pressure on the longitudinal arch puts a “pull” on the origin of the Plantar Fascia at the heel. This continued stress on the fascia allows for the formation of heel spur as well as plantar fasciitis.
  3. Weak and painful arches.
  4. Frequent ankle sprains.
  5. Shin splints (pain in the front or sides of the lower leg).
  6. And eventually knee, hip, and lower back pain. The knee gets a great deal of pressure on the medial or inner side when the foot is pronated as weight distribution forces apply pressure to the knee. The knee pain can reflect elsewhere as the compensatory gait established could cause hip and back pain.

Treating and Preventing Foot Pain

Treatment of Flat (Collapsed) Arches in the Obese Person:

In adults, doctors recommend that the treatment of flat feet must be directed to supporting the individual bones, joints, and muscles which make up the arch; and, to provide adequate shock absorption for the entire body. This will help to prevent and alleviate pain in the foot, ankle, leg, knee, hip, and lower back. Preventing pain and the total collapse of the arch is accomplished through the use of custom-made orthotics. Custom-made orthotics is medical devices that gently support not only the arch, but also each individual component of the arch and foot. Also, because of materials used in the construction of our custom-made orthotics, they allow the arch to become a much more efficient shock absorber. This not only relieves arch and foot pain, but also prevents the pain from returning, and keeps the arch from flattening out further. Custom-made orthotics help to relieve the pain caused by bunions, hammertoes, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, neuromas, knee pain, and muscle weakness. Over-the-counter arch supports may give temporary relief, but because they do not support the individual components of the arch, the pain may return.

Our Custom-Made Orthotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Flat (Collapsed) Arches for the Obese Person:

What makes these orthotics unique, is their ability to support the individual components of the arch, not just the “arch” as a whole, and to act as an efficient shock absorber. Our custom-made orthotics is constructed of the latest thermoplastic materials. These materials not only provide the support that is needed, but they have a “memory.” This memory allows the orthotic to compress slightly when pressure is applied to it, but when the pressure is released, the orthotic returns to its original height and shape. This insures maximum comfort, while guaranteeing that the arch will always be supported at its most efficient height. Our custom-made orthotics also help to prevent the further collapse of the arch; they act as shock absorbers and they will help to reduce pain in the arches, the entire foot, leg, knees, hips, and lower back. These custom-made orthotics are comfortable, will last for years, and will fit into most flat shoes, and shoes with heel heights of up to 1 1/2 inches.

Having custom orthotics made for you has never been so simple. To help you take the first step toward pain relief, we will send you a special foam impression kit. Our kit includes easy instructions and allows you to take impressions of both your feet quickly and cleanly. Also included is a self-mailing carton to return your impressions to us.

Simply place your feet in the impression material and hold still for approximately 10 seconds. Then complete the self-examination form, our board certified podiatrist. will personally review each and every kit and examination form returned to us. Within days, custom-made orthotics — which will relieve your unique foot problems — will be made for you under the supervision of our foot doctor and rushed to you via Priority Mail.